Is Immigration the Solution to Population Ageing ?

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Is immigration the solution to population ageing ?

Population ageing took place, without any exception, in all industrialized countries all along the XXth century. Initially it was not a problem for European societies because it had a positive effect on economic growth. Today, Eurostat estimates that the over 64 population is very likely to rise from 15% to 22% y 2025 and this will cause a shrink of the working-age population of over 50 million people by 2050 and even if this process will slow at some point almost certainly, there is yet no indication that we will reach that point soon. Both population decline and ageing arise from two irreversible changes in human society. Life expectancy increased progressively during the XXth century and is about 78 years today, and family size has fallen drastically to about 2 children or less.

In Europe, while fertility has dropped to unprecedentedly low levels, the ageing of population is reaching particularly alarming proportions. In some countries, fertility has dropped so much that mortality rates are even higher than birth rates, resulting in a population decline. To conduct our study of the impact of immigration on population ageing we will need some macroeconomic data such as the Potential Support Ratio (PSR), also called “dependency ratio”, corresponds to the relation between the proportion in working-age group (15-64) and the population of 65 years or older. According to the evolution of the PSR, some necessary increase of the European population will be rather large, others gigantic. For instance, to maintain constant the European Union population (337 million people) by 2050 we will need nearly 1 million new immigrants per year (47 million y 2050). However, to keep working-age population we will require almost 1.8 million immigrants per year, or 80 million by 2050. If we consider now the necessity to keep the potential support ratio at todayʼs level, we will need more than 16 million (almost half of the Canadian population) additional immigrants per year in Europe by 2050. With 700 million new immigrants in Europe, 75% of the population of the European Union would be of immigrant descent.

Even in the absence of new medical breakthroughs, longevity is projected to increase. Among all the demographic variables, international migration is the only one which could be instrumental facing population decline and ageing in the short or medium term. United Nations report concerning population ageing adverts that “The prospects of population decline and population ageing during the coming decades, and particularly the rapid and extensive reduction of the potential support ration in many countries, raise a number of crucial issues in the areas of employment, economic growth, health care services, pensions and social support services”. Because the developed countries experience and will experience population decline, we will witness to a dramatic repositioning of countries and regions according to their relative population size. Without any doubt, the current demographic situation and its future evolution, will induce reassessments of economic, political and social programmes or policies, including those concerning international migration. Hence, we should be concerned by the robustness of the data regarding the phenomenon of population ageing, the economic and social consequences of such demographic trends, the effectiveness of migration as a solution and finally alternative policies.

I. Immigration is the only suitable solution to population ageing In an article published in the Parliament Magazine, it is reported that an ageing population is the most pressing issue the EU now faces and will have to face. However, this issue is rather controversial due to some aspects. The population ageing and fertility decline is heterogeneous from country to country in the European Union. While Ireland, France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have managed to...
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